Thinking back at the most recent games I have played, for example Borderlands, Mass Effect, Assassin’s creed 2 and Red Dead Redemption, I have noticed something quite often; the fact that it is becoming almost commonplace to use a quest or mission system as a way to further player progression. Thinking about it more I realise that the system is able to bring forth similarities between games which would otherwise stand firmly separated by their differences in genre, mechanical considerations or setting.
This growing convention has obvious origins in RTS games such as Warcraft where the player is made aware of various side quests hidden in a level before commencing play. The newer method is, I believe, much more effective and dynamic than its predecessor as it extends the play time and value of the game. More importantly, the new method is much less structured giving a greater sense of intrigue and exploration as the player discovers and accomplishes tasks that they mightn’t have found otherwise.
Personally I believe this method is also the most effective way to please a range of play styles in allowing player to pick and chose how they wish to progress. For example, if you become bored or frustrated by one task you are able to take the time to find something else to do instead. One of the best examples of this comes in Red Dead Redemption with the hunting, trading and treasure finding missions which the player is able to drop in and out of their focus at any time. ‘Choose your own adventure’ is made even better by the ability to drop out of a quest with minimal consequence as is the case for Assassin’s Creed 2.
However, this isn’t to say that the player should just have to piece together the entire game as they see fit, where’s the fun in that? I also believe that it is just as important to maintain a focused design, story and gameplay goal that will allow players who don’t necessarily want to have choice to have just as a fulfilling and exciting gameplay experience as those who do.
Also, it stands to reason that the method simply isn’t applicable to certain genres or gameplay styles. Platformers for example, in requiring the same degree of gameplay variation as games with expansive storylines, worlds and level of immersion, would likely be hindered by such a method.
Furthermost, I feel that incorporating a degree of player freedom and choice in terms of progression lengthens my interest in a game as I am always trying to find more to do and more to achieve.